“Let Me Touch Your Hair. It’s Okay. I’m a Beauty Blogger.”
As my conversation with the female lawyer from the wedding party concludes and my gleeful drunk begins to crescendo, it takes a nose dive into dark ire when a member from her gaggle of bridesmaids barks at me, “LET ME TOUCH YOUR HAIR.“
This is happening at the rear entrance of a club called BSP Lounge in the small city of Kingston, New York. I’d made this place my temporary home, a town close enough to the city, but far enough way from it to insulate myself from the scourge of Midwesterners Who Bought A Personality and were currently occupying my hometown of Manhattan. Unfortunately, and as will always be the case, they got bored, started looking for a new novelty and had arrived en masse in the Hudson Valley to condescend once more.
I’ve now been ruminating over this girl’s comment while she’s had her arm extended towards me, fingers vacillating, for the past 30 or so seconds. I’ve heard this demand a million times from a million different white people and I usually shrug it off or shut it down with a viciously caustic retort. However, for some reason, this particular instance is the first time I’ve ever felt genuinely irritated by it.
“You know,” I say, my entirely obsidian outfit subconsciously fueling my growing invective. “That comment is at best mildly racist and it’s worst woefully ignorant.”
Her jaw slowly drops, her pale arm retracts and her crossed leg starts to twitch like the exposed nerve of a severed limb. “What? Oh my god, no…I just…I’m a beauty bloggerrrr,” she drawls. “Beauty Editor for Refinery29. I’m not racist,” She sips her IPA. “I understand hair, just let me touch it,” she entreats.
At this, 30 years of humoring rich white kids had pretty much peaked. I move to sit beside her and engage. “It’s a little racist,” I say calmly.
“I’m racist because I think your hair is beautiful??” she asks confidently, her left armed coiled like a Cobra ready to strike at my locks.
“Well, you didn’t think it…you demanded to touch it, but racist is an easy word to throw around,” I concede. “But there’s a — “
“Oh my god we were just having an amazing conversation about this,” she whines, gesturing to an imaginary friend.
“Conversation about what,” I say, my countenance emotionless, my tone hollow, my eyes locked onto hers waiting for my opportunity to dissect her.
“How annoying it is when black people get sensitive about touching their hair,” she complains.
I’m gritting my teeth, but I’m surprised by my response to her words. I’ve always been aware of rich people’s entitlements in the world and their capacity for savage ignorance. However, I had never let myself subscribe to the victim narrative that, through its ubiquity, almost seemed to suggest that it was Hip to be Oppressed. I wanted to resist the easy compunction to believe that humanity was torn asunder along the arbitrary lines of race and that I, as a black man, had no utility in this world and could never possibly succeed with all the socio-economic factors stacked against me. I mean, there are at least a hundred hashtags that stand between me and prosperity, right? Still, this dope of a girl, this editor for this unfortunately influential magazine had crossed some sort of red line in my usually amorphous boundaries of social justice and I had to unleash.
“Yeah, well, don’t…touch…forget black people’s hair…don’t touch strangers hair?” I slowly explain, my usual even keel conversational tone starting to bubble into “argument with an ex-girlfriend who fucked an older bald guy.”
“No, no, no, no, no…I’m a beauty writer,” she reaffirms through a drunken slur with inaudible cornet fanfare. “I write for Refinery29, okay?” she reminds me. “We write about this allllll the time.”
And there it was: That New York City girl pretentious arrogance I had fled 90 miles North to the city of Kingston to escape. This hashtag proselytizing that, for whatever reason, nigga’s and honkeys alike were eating like baby food.
“And that gives you carte blanche to touch whoever you want?” I ask, regaining control.
“BUT I WRITE-ABOUT-HAIR FOR-A-LIVING,” she barks again. “I just think your hair is beautiful.”
“I don’t care. I think you’re beautiful. Can I ask to grab your tits out of the blue?” I say, the anger now breaking through. “What if wanted to lick your cunt through your dress because I found your bush exotic? Is that the same fucking thing?!”
“Shh, sh, sure. I guess, no it’s not the same,” she fires back, her IPA spilling quietly onto the top of breast and drooling down into her cleavage.
As this exchange occurs, the bouncer, a man of Negro Descent, watches with an expression of delight and confusion, trying to decide whether or not he needs to kick me out. He and I don’t agree on all things for sure, being strangers, a nigga of a different ilk. Still, my mastery of frustrating rich white girls who think they’re helping society, a talent I’ve cultivated over the past 30 years, elates him.
“Actually,” I say, standing up and grabbing my Scwinn leaning against the brick exterior of the old Opera House turned Club. “You fucked up. I’m out of here. If I was 21 I woulda hung around and hoped you got drunk enough to want to make out with me. I’m not a fucking chia pet. You fucked up, fuck you, you banal cunt. You are AIDS, manifest — wearing a tacky sun dress.”
The black bouncer, without fail: “Damn!”
As I ride home, brooding, cutting through Uptown Kingston glaring at people who weren’t my enemy, I reflect. I could pontificate upon the intellectualized appraisals of race relations in this country, but that wouldn’t solve anything. Cool wind kissing my ears and my jacket flapping behind me, I simply wondered, who was bankrolling all these dumbass girls?
And like some Nintendo Entertainment System Final Boss, I stared up at the August sky and saw the silhouette of He.